Review Article

Sexually transmitted infections in pregnant women from sub-Saharan Africa

Bongekile Ngobese, Nathlee S. Abbai
Southern African Journal of Infectious Diseases | Vol 36, No 1 | a312 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajid.v36i1.312 | © 2021 Bongekile Ngobese, Nathlee S. Abbai | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 21 June 2021 | Published: 29 November 2021

About the author(s)

Bongekile Ngobese, Department of Clinical Medicine Laboratory, College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Nathlee S. Abbai, Department of Clinical Medicine Laboratory, College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a major health problem in most countries of the world, particularly in developing countries where the resources and technology to diagnose and treat them are limited. Currently, there is limited data on STIs and risk factors for these infections in pregnant women living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), especially in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This review provides data on the prevalence and risk factors for STIs in pregnant women living with HIV from SSA. This review also describes the association between STIs and HIV on pregnancy and birth outcomes as well as highlights the importance of laboratory-based diagnosis of STIs.

Method: An electronic search of online databases was used to find and collect relevant research articles connected to the prevalence, adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes, health complications and risk factors associated with STIs and HIV in pregnant women from SSA. The search was limited to articles published in English. Relevant studies were identified by searching literature from January 2001 to date. The search yielded 4709 results.

Results: In SSA, STIs are highly prevalent in pregnant women and are widely known to be linked with an increased risk of poor maternal and neonatal outcomes. These infections are often asymptomatic and highly prevalent in pregnant women. The screening of STIs in pregnant women living with HIV can reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) and screening and treatment for STIs can also prevent adverse perinatal outcomes. It is important to recognise regional and national STI epidemics in order to promote STI prevention and control interventions considering the test and treat approach as opposed to syndromic management.

Conclusion: This review highlights the need to use diagnostic screening methods instead of syndromic STI management in SSA. Moreover, more research into effective prevention and treatment measures for STIs in pregnant women is urgently required.


Keywords

sexually transmitted infections; human immunodeficiency virus; pregnant women; health complications; sub-Saharan Africa

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